Remains of Exceat parish church: part of the former medieval settlement of Exceat, 690m south south west of Westdean Manor


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Remains of Exceat parish church: part of the former medieval settlement of Exceat, 690m south south west of Westdean Manor
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Sussex
Wealden (District Authority)
Cuckmere Valley
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
TV 52365 98908

Reasons for Designation

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more. This monument lies in the East Wessex sub-Province of the south-eastern Province, an area in which settlement characteristics are shaped by strong contrasts in terrain. This is seen in the division between the chalk Downs, where chains of nucleated settlements concentrate in the valleys, and the Hampshire Basin, still dominated by the woodlands and open commons of the ancient New Forest, where nucleated sites are largely absent. Along the coastal strip extending into Sussex are more nucleations, while in Hampshire some coastal areas and inland valleys are marked by high densities of dispersed settlement, much of it post-medieval. The Coastlands local region extends from a flat plain inland of Selsey Bill to low chalk cliffs east of Brighton. The roots of settlement are extremely ancient, and late 18th century maps suggest a balanced mixture of farmsteads, hamlets and villages, concentrated in the western portion of the region.

Medieval villages were organised agricultural communities, sited at the centre of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land, meadow and woodland. They frequently included the parish church within their boundaries, and their archaeological remains are one of the most important sources of understanding about rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman conquest.

A parish church is a building, usually rectangular in plan, designed for congregational worship and is generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provides accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the priest and contains the principal altar. The main periods of parish church foundation were in the 10th to 11th and 19th centuries, and most medieval churches were subsequently rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions. Parish churches are found throughout England. Their distribution reflects the density of the population at the time they were founded. A survey of 1625 reported the existence of nearly 9000 parish churches in England. New churches built in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries increased numbers to around 18,000 of which 17,000 remain in ecclesiastical use. Parish churches have always been major features of the landscape and a major focus of life for their parishioners. They provide an important insight into medieval and later population levels and religious activity.

The remains of Exceat parish church form part of an example of the nucleated form of medieval rural settlement predominant in the Coastlands local region. Part excavation has indicated that the monument contains archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the original form, development and abandonment of the church, as a core component of the medieval settlement.


The monument includes the remains of a medieval parish church situated on the eastern edge of the Cuckmere Valley, on the summit of a chalk hill which forms part of the Sussex Downs.

The east-west aligned church measured up to around 17m in length and 10m wide and survives in the form of buried remains and slight earthworks visible on the ground surface. Part excavation in 1913 revealed the stone dressed, flint and chalk rubble footings of a rectangular nave, entered on its northern side, with an apsidal chancel and a square south porch. A small part of the nave has been disturbed by the construction of an inscribed memorial stone towards its eastern end, following completion of the excavation. The church has been dated by its architectural features to the 11th century, and documentary sources indicate that the structure had been demolished at some stage before the mid-15th century. The excavation also revealed the presence of at least two burials below the nave and chancel, and it is likely that further burials survive outside the church, beyond the area of the monument, as well as traces of the associated medieval settlement.

Historical records, including an entry in the Domesday Book, suggest that the medieval settlement of Exceat was in existence by the 12th century and that in 1460 the parish was depopulated, consisting of only two inhabited houses. Although settlement remains on Exceat Hill have been levelled by past modern ploughing, traces of the settlement may survive as buried features in the vicinity of the church.

The memorial stone, constructed within the area of the nave, is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Budgen, Rev W, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Excete and its Parish Church, , Vol. 58, (1916), 138-170
Burleigh, G R, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in An Introduction To Deserted Medieval Villages In East Sussex, , Vol. 58, (1973), 66


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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